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Chasing Before by Lenore Appelhans

Chasing Before

by Lenore Appelhans

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For more reviews, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.

First things first, you should know that Lenore is one of my besties. I know some people make the decision not to officially review books by author friends because of conflict of interest and I totally respect that. Personally, though, I still want to be able to talk about the books I read honestly, so that’s what I’m going to do. Obviously, I love Lenore, but I’m going to endeavor to leave that aside here and share my opinions. If you have a problem with that, then *waves*. Anyway, if you enjoyed Level 2/The Memory of After, I think you’ll be pleased with Chasing Before.

You know, when it was revealed, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this cover. It seemed a bit more glamorous than seemed right for a book that’s not about fashionable evil masterminds. Not that Felicia doesn’t like to look good, but she generally has more on her mind than clothing. Now, though, I’m actually really pleased with how well the cover matches the book. I mean, Felicia spends much of the book wearing black, both clothing and heavy eyeliner. Plus, the dark background references her struggle with the darker sides of her personality and she’s reaching out for the orb, which is totally plot relevant, with two fingers and away with two, knowing she probably shouldn’t. Basically, it’s kind of perfect, minus how one eye is closed and the other a little bit open which creeps me out tbh.

Like Level 2/The Memory of After, Chasing Before splits between the afterlife and memories of being alive. However, if you’re not as big of a fan of flashbacks, there’s a bit less of that now. In Level 3, there’s a focus on moving on with your afterlife. Level 2 was very reflective and, ideally, meant to help people say goodbye to their earthly life before ascending to the next level. In Level 3, there’s a whole world with occupations and all of that.

I really love Lenore’s conception of the afterlife, full of such mystery and promise. She draws on various sources to pull things together. If anything, it’s most similar to Dante, I’d say, with the various levels. Though many of the characters are Christian and there are angels, it’s not comparable to any Christian conceptions of heaven. There are also references to other mythologies, like muse being a profession, hearkening to Greek mythology. It’s very cool and imaginative. I love afterlife fiction and I love learning the rules of each level.

Chasing Before is a real page-turner. Explosions and secrets and fighting abound. I was propelled forward quickly, curious to find out what would happen next. There’s a constant sense of menace with the ever-plotting Morati. Plus, I end up sort of torn between wanting Felicia to accomplish her goals and between wanting her to die so I can find out what Level 4 is like… Sorry, Felicia, but I’d really like to know.

From the character side, I am simultaneously in love and frustrated. See, it’s really cool that Felicia’s hooked up with Neil now and we get to meet the guy in all the memories. It’s also awesome that we see how skewed Felicia’s memories of him are. It’s less cool that I have to watch Felicia obsess over such an insufferable, sanctimonious prat. I do think it’s neat that these two obviously (to me anyway) are going to be incompatible ultimately, but that there’s still a connection there that needs to run its course.

Why are they incompatible? Well, Neil is Mr. Selfless and holier-than-thou. Felicia’s one of the most selfish heroines I’ve read, which will probably annoy some people but which I love. Both of them really just want the other person to be something other than what they actually are. They’re in love with an idea, not the actuality. Though their lives may be over, they’re still young and have lots of learning to do. Oh, and I do love the fact that it’s Felicia who’s the aggressor in their physical relationship and Neil who isn’t ready, even if he annoys me.

What I would like to see more of is Autumn, even though I’m not a big fan of her. I think there’s a lot of emotion to be mined there and a lot of things Felicia needed to work through. I don’t think she put the effort towards her relationship with Autumn that she maybe should have, though should is a strange word. The way their story plays out doesn’t ring quite right to me, though I can’t put a precise finger on why.

Lenore Appelhans’ Memory Chronicles are a perfect choice for anyone who likes to imagine the limitless possibilities of a life beyond this one. Chasing Before is fast-paced and almost new adult in its consideration of employment and trying to maintain a mature relationship. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Aug 25, 2014 |
Poor Felicia is not having a very peaceful afterlife. First, there is her battle with the Morati in Level 2. Then, immediately upon her arrival at Level 3, the Morati are back again, as is Julian. There is a lot of internal debate about right and wrong, good versus bad, selfishness versus selflessness. Felicia remains torn between Neil and Julian. In the end, there are still more questions than answers with the added addition of an unsatisfactory feeling that Felicia followed the wrong path. It is a good thing there is another story in this series, as it gives readers another opportunity to figure out this strange new world, its policies and politics, and Felicia’s final role in everything.

Chasing Before is not the type of novel one can pick up mid-series. Readers need to be able to remember everything from the first novel because the second one builds on what was already shared. Unfortunately, there were minimal explanations and world-building in the first book, and there are even fewer explanations in the sequel. If one keeps an understanding of Ms. Appelhans’ version of heaven basic, without scrutiny, Level 3 makes sense. Any attempt to delve deeper however quickly reveals plot holes and many an unexplained area.

Just like the first novel, Chasing Before has many flaws. Felicia remains as indecisive as she was before, but this time there is much agony about her relationship with Neil. When Julian reveals a big secret about her abilities, this only serves to cause Felicia more angst. There is little character development and approximately the same amount of background set-up. The pacing is uneven and does not adequately build suspense. Lastly, the theological discussions are not as frequent but are still a major part of moving up to Levels 3 and 4.

The action is silly. The afterworld makes no sense upon inspection. Felicia is whiny, Neil is weak, and Julian is frustrating. However, none of this prevents Chasing Before from being a rollicking good time. One gets caught up in the emotion and drama and finds oneself thoroughly enjoying the story, sometimes because of the silliness of it all. Readers will fly through the story, anxious to uncover who Felicia chooses and why. They will want to help Felicia discover the hidden Morati, their ultimate purpose and their plans for her. They will want to uncover Felicia’s lost memories and help her find her future role in Level 3 or beyond it. It is the type of novel in which readers will become emotionally involved, which is a great thing when the story cannot bear the weight of a close examination. It may not great literature, but Chasing Before is certainly entertaining.
  jmchshannon | Aug 21, 2014 |
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Four months after Felicia saved Level 2 from the Morati--corrupted angels who trapped her and her boyfriend Neil in the afterlife--she learns some shocking truths about her life that make her question whether she should continue the fight on Level 3.

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